Plato once said, “Only the dead have seen the end of war,” and though that sentiment is crude, it’s also accurate. It’s always been “us” versus “them,” and “right” versus “wrong.” Since the dawn of time, society has engaged in two monologues with guns, bombs, and swords as a microphone. It seems like the only thing that we could all agree on is that red is the colour of our blood. (And even then, there are people who die and kill for the notion of “blood purity.” But I digress; that topic’s for another day.)
Long before I was born, my da fought in Viet Nam. Two tours. two different men. The man I knew (know) as my da is not the same boy everyone else knew. My da, Ronald, hated fireworks with a passion and disliked the colour red. Ronnie, the little boy, adored watching fireworks displays over the water. Ronald almost broke my momma’s neck when she once quietly crept up to him when he was sleeping. Ronnie was a notoriously hard-to-wake-up kid who slept through a hurricane. Ronald was a guarded man whose trust had to be earned, and even then, had to be continuously earned. Little Ronnie befriended everyone and anyone, and believed that humans are inherently good.
Of course, almost everything I’ve heard about little Ronnie came from those who were there. My da, the man, only spoke about Viet Nam as a part of America’s history. Despite him being a polyglot, da couldn’t form the words to claim Viet Nam as his own history, because then he’d have given a name to a nightmare that he spent a lifetime trying to wake up from. Ronald the man wanted to forget.
I see a glimpse of my da in every young soldier I meet, and each time I see the emptiness reflected in their eyes, a little part of me becomes half-orphaned all over again.